Eating Australianby Kate Heyhoe
Many years ago, back in my Hollywood days, I worked on a Paul Hogan film. You remember Paul, star of the Crocodile Dundee movies? Also known for Foster's beer commercials and throwing more shrimps on the barbie?
Paul and his producer/director John Cornell were quite the celebrities back then. Though the film was shot in the world capital of filmmaking, they supplemented their Hollywood crew with their own spirited entourage of Aussies—family members, assistant directors, bodyguards, make-up artists and more. The movie set looked and sounded like a holiday party in Perth.
True to the Aussie reputation, these mates were as friendly a lot as one might find, and prone to late night revelry. I concluded early on that Australians have no livers. Either that, or they have bionic ones, as I've never seen a group imbibe so much beer (or amber liquid, as they call it) on a nightly basis. And yet every morning, they never missed a crew call and were right back in the trenches with the Hollywood union gang, who were looking like teetotalers compared to the Aussies. (I did hear a rumor that Paul Hogan refused to be photographed before 10 AM, but I could never verify this.)
Being international travelers, this bunch of Australians had learned to speak English—that is, "English" the way Americans would understand it. But when grouped together on their own, the Aussies would readily let loose those lovely colloquialisms so popular in Crocodile Dundee...phrases like "silly as a gum tree full of galahs"... or "flat as a lizard drinking."
Aussie Food Names
Imagine going grocery shopping in Australia with a list like this:
Little Boys (Cocktail sausages)
Rock Melon (cantaloupe)
Crisps (potato chips)
Capsicum (bell pepper)
Tomato Sauce (ketchup)
Flake (shark meat, as used in fish and chips shops)
Lollies (candy and chocolates)
Australia doesn't just have different names for foods, it has its own uniquely indigenous foods known as "bush tucker"—and some of these may make sensitive foreigners wince. Witchetty grubs, for instance, are exactly that: grubs. Serve them raw or cooked, with or without their heads on.
Other foods sound strange but would actually be delicacies in many cultures: muddies (large crabs), yabbies (freshwater crayfish), and fruits like kakadu plums and the peach-like quandongs all grace the tables in fine Australian restaurants.
In fact, today's Australian chefs have created an impressive cuisine to complement their world-class wines. For a sample of the rich and varied fare, check out Australian Food: In Celebration of the New Australian Cuisine, and its recipes for Smoked Kangaroo and Pavlova with Passionfruit.
While the 2000 Olympics take place in Sydney, find out what the locals are eating. Visit our sections on recipes, wines, and bush tucker in Global Destinations: Australia. You can even pick up a few Australian Colloquialisms. But be careful who you talk to in Australian— if they can't understand you, they may think you've got kangaroos loose in the top paddock.
What to Eat
Colloquialisms & Menu Guide
Australian Recipes & More (from our archives)
Australian Food: In Celebration of the New Australian Cuisine
by Alan Saunders (Cookbook Profile with Recipes)
A Taste of Australia: The Bather's Pavilion Cookbook
by Victoria Alexander and Genevieve Harris
Kate's Global Kitchen for September, 2000:
Copyright © 2000, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
This page created September 2000